How do "The Southern Air Temple," "The Storm," "The Crossroads of Destiny," "The Southern Raiders," and "Sozin's Comet" go down in the Aang/Zuko role swap au?
I hate you and need to have a good long cry now. AKA, stop making me think so hard, you big meanie!
The Southern Air Temple:
Oh Man, Avatar Zuko has a complete meltdown when he sees Gyatso’s body. Before that, he’s much less cheerfully in denial, but he’s pretty emphatic about there being Airbenders hiding somewhere, and angry and defensive when Sokka or Katara tries to get him to confront that this is not the case. After he sees Gyatso and some of the other bodies, he sinks into a nasty case of despair that slowly turns into a determination to stop the Fire Nation.
Meanwhile, Prince Aang has been Iroh’s student in subtly pissing people off for three years now, and after Zhao makes it clear he will not help the aggravating Fire Prince with ship repairs, Aang needles him until it’s Zhao who challenges him to an Agni Kai. Aang responds by telling him that unless he backtracks and repairs his ship, Aang will report this insult to the royal family to his father. Zhao retaliates by saying that the Firelord doesn’t consider insults to Aang to be insults to the royal family, and oh it is on.
After Aang wins, he blackmails Zhao into repairing his ship and goes on his merry way. Also it takes Zhao a little longer in this verse to find out that the Avatar has reappeared, and oh, that’s how the prince’s ship got trashed, and oh, this just makes it even more embarrassing. He got completely outsmarted, misdirected, and outfought by a sixteen-year-old.
Interestingly enough, even though “The Storm” is all about parallels between Zuko and Aang, their differences mean this goes down very differently indeed. Prince Aang is much better liked by his crew. He is charming, and affable, and much like his famous uncle. They don’t really respect his leadership, but they like him and feel bad for him being sent on this wild goose-monkey chase. And you know, the fact that the goose-monkey actually showed up doesn’t really make them feel a whole lot differently about it.
The upshot is that Prince Aang is not about to almost get into a duel with Lieutenant Jee and provoke a mutiny that Iroh has to quash. The story about Prince Aang’s honorable defense of Fire Nation soldiers and his banishment comes out a little differently, and involves Aang getting gloomy and depressed, and Jee wondering what this nice young man could have done to piss off his father badly enough to banish him.
In spite of their different personalities, Prince Aang has an extremely similar code of honor and ideas about right and wrong to canon Prince Zuko.
Meanwhile Avatar Zuko’s crisis of conscience in The Storm happens similarly to Avatar Aang’s. He is deeply, deeply, affected by the idea that the world is the way it is, that his people are dead, that Sokka and Katara suffered, all because he ran away, and it’s all his fault. Zuko has a tendency toward self-blame you see. He failed. He is a failure, and a coward, and…
And if he had stayed, he would have died with his people. Other than being a lot more hostile toward Katara trying to comfort him, not much changes here.
The Crossroads of Destiny:
Ohhhh, okay, so what you got to understand is that Prince Aang is a charming asshole. He’s all nice and polite and courteous, but he also is willing to sacrifice almost anything and anyone for his honor and moral code, and said moral code has a lot of flaws. Katara has already had a run in with this particular side of the Fire Prince’s personality when he and a band of pirates captured her. He brought her to his ship, sat down with her, made her tea, brought her some really delicious little pastries, and then did everything he could to bribe, trick, and coerce her friend’s location out of her. And then when that didn’t work, he used her as bait. He was thoroughly horrible to her, and so very nice about it. And then he does it again! They swap stories about their dead and missing mothers, and then he goes and sides with his sister, can you believe this asshole!
The Western Air Temple:
Okay so the thing that’s important here is not Katara and the Fire Prince, who have a similar enough history to canon that she is highly suspicious of him, and definitely threatens to kill him, and ignores his attempts to turn up the charm. No, what I want to talk about is Avatar Zuko and his character arc.
When Zuko first wakes up, he’s got the pretty typical Air Nomad outlook on life. He wasn’t the most outgoing and friendly type, but he still managed to have friends in the Fire Nation that he looks back on fondly. But he’s a lot more black and white in the way he views other people, and his switch over at the Western Air Temple to dedicating himself to stopping the Fire Nation involved believing that right now, the Fire Nation is full of bad people.
Then, horrible things happened at the North Pole, and later they traveled through the Fire Nation, and he met lots of Fire Nation people who were for the war but otherwise perfectly nice, and he went to that horrible Fire Nation school, and he has started to realize that’s not really the way things work. And this is when Fire Prince Aang shows up to join the Gaang, and he’s working really hard at this offering people a chance to do the right thing schtick, and Toph says he’s telling the truth, and okay, he can stay.
The Southern Raiders:
So Fire Prince Aang is a fairly chill person. He’s always been able to get people to like him, and never really felt the burning need to seek approval that canon Zuko has, so he isn’t going to get all bent out of shape over Katara’s hostility. But he’s totally going to help her out on an honor quest. Honor is important, even if apparently the Avatar is a little boy who clearly doesn’t understand these things.
Zuko does understand these things. He just also remembers how angry he was after he found Gyatso and how it ate at him, and how sick he felt at the North Pole when it was all over, and he knows Katara would feel the same after it’s all over.
After it is all over and Katara doesn’t kill Yon Rha, Aang needs to have a lie down, somewhere quiet and alone, where he can ask himself how he’s alive after pissing off Katara, because holy shit. She is scary.
Also Aang and Zuko have a long talk about plans for Ozai. They keep coming back to needing to kill him, and Zuko is very stressed. Thank goodness for lion turtles.
Katara’s scariness almost convinces Aang to take her to fight his sister, but he ends up deciding that Toph would work better and would probably like an out from the whole airship battle anyway. This means when Azula hits him with lightning, he doesn’t get immediate healing. And after almost killing Azula, Toph has a near panic attack, and when Katara shows up, she’s like “I can’t leave you idiots alone for five whole seconds, seriously.” Aang has to spend a month on bedrest before his coronation. He suffers.